Boca Raton: Tech upgrades approved by parks board

By Cheryl Blackerby

    Connecting with the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District figures to get a lot easier soon because of significant investments in new technology.
    At their Feb. 4 meeting, commissioners gave unanimous approval to a $40,000 plan to upgrade the audio-visual system at the board’s meeting rooms at Sugar Sand Park.
    The improvements include high-definition monitors, an upgraded sound system and a mobile audio-visual cart that will allow meetings to move into larger spaces when public interest requires it.
    Commissioners also approved buying seven iPad computer tablets, one for each of the five commissioners, the board’s attorney and the open executive director’s position.
    The seven iPads, which will cost about $6,000, are to be devoted exclusively to commission business — a restriction that is intended to reduce the likelihood of potential Sunshine Law violations.
    “These devices will be dedicated devices,” board attorney Art Koski, the interim executive director, told commissioners. “They are not there for your personal business.”
    In the past, commissioners have used personal computers for business emailing, a practice that could raise compliance issues with the state’s public record laws. Upgrading the boardroom’s audio-visual system also ensures compliance with those laws and responds to complaints about the poor quality of recordings of public meetings.
    “Following this recommendation gets us into the 21st century,” Commissioner Earl Starkoff said.
    The technical ability to move into a larger space, such as the Willow Theatre, ensures that the board can accommodate larger turnouts.
     “You’ve got to have mobile (technology) because you never know how many people will show up at a given time,” Starkoff said.
     Down the road, the commission wants to expand Wi-Fi service at district parks.
     Commissioners gave the go-ahead to Experis Technology Group consultants, who are overseeing the other improvements, to come up with a proposal for expanding wireless Internet service.
     The Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, the Swim & Racquet Center and the Sugar Sand Park field house already have the service. The proposed expansion would bring Wi-Fi to Patch Reef Park, Red Reef Park and all of Sugar Sand Park.
     Koski has argued that, besides being a popular amenity, Internet access also would enhance safety for families and children using the facilities.
     In other business, Koski reported that the board has five respondents to an advertised request for a financial services contractor. Bob Langford, who retired in August after two decades of service, had doubled as the board’s executive director and accountant.
    The plan now is to outsource the accounting and hire a new director who focuses exclusively on administration and day-to-day operations.

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